Ask Dr. Wickum: What Questions Should I Ask My Hip Surgeon?

Surgery is an important decision. Dr. Wickum offers a list of questions every patient should discuss with their surgeon when they are considering surgery.

The decision to undergo any elective surgery—including hip surgery—is not made lightly. With a variety of devices and procedures available, it’s important for patients to understand the pros and cons of their available options. Equally important to patient satisfaction is a realistic understanding of the rehabilitation process, and an accurate expectation of the surgical outcome. Dr. Wickum shares a series of valuable questions to ask your hip surgeon.

“I find it very helpful when patients come in prepared with a list of questions,” says Summit orthopedic surgeon and hip sub-specialist Dr. Daren Wickum. “A list helps patients formulate their thoughts, and they can also take notes as I answer.  Every question that is important to my patient is a question I want them to ask. There are a few questions, however, that I feel should always be addressed by patients considering hip surgery.”

Top 5 questions to ask your hip surgeon

  1. What is my diagnosis? Medical information can be difficult to digest, especially if a patient has consulted a number of specialists, or has been dealing with a difficult condition over a long period of time. Asking your surgeon to clarify your diagnosis lays a foundation for discussing surgical options and outcome expectations.
  2. Are there any alternatives to surgery? In medicine, physicians usually begin with conservative, non-invasive treatments. If more conservative options might be available, it is important to discuss those with your surgeon before committing to surgery.
  3. What are the risks to surgery? Every medical procedure involves some risk; and those risks vary based on a number of individualized factors. Understanding the balance between risk and benefit informs patient expectations.
  4. Has the surgeon had any complications with your planned procedure, and if so, what were they and how were they fixed?  “Statistically speaking,” explains Dr. Wickum, “every surgeon encounters complications. The important thing is for your surgeon to be honest with you. Common complications in hip replacement surgery include dislocations, cracked bones, and infections.”
  5. How many procedures like the one you are recommending have you done?  Generally, the more procedures a surgeon has performed, the more comfortable you can feel with his or her skill level. However, every procedure has a learning curve, and every surgeon had to start with his or her first one.

“I still remember my first anterior hip patient years ago,” says Dr. Wickum. “He didn’t even ask me how many I had done, but I thought it important to bring up the fact that he would be my first. I explained to him that I have done the necessary research and training, and that I felt very comfortable offering it to him. I also gave him some “what if” scenarios in case there were complications, and explained how I planned to correct any problems that might arise. He felt comfortable enough to go forward with the procedure, and has referred others to me.”

We encourage you to use these questions to ask your hip surgeon when you go in for your clinic visit. When you sit down with your surgeon and address these issues, you will feel more comfortable with your decision, and will be more informed about what to expect during and after your procedure.

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